HBO’s EVP of Corporate Communications Quentin Schaffer will be stepping down next month after 39 years at the network. Schaffer made the announcement Monday morning in an email to staff. (you can read it in full below)
In the note, fashioned as a promo script with a nod to David Chase’s infamous ‘cut to black’ ending of The Sopranos, Schaffer called his 39-year stint at HBO “the greatest temporary job.”
Schaffer’s departure comes five months after the executive shakeup at WarnerMedia, in which HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler was among several top executives exiting as NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt was brought in to oversee HBO, Turner and WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service. In his memo, Schaffer acknowledged his boss of 28 years, Plepler, as well as his “dear colleague of 35 years Nancy Lesser.”
In his farewell email, Schaffer recalled his earliest memory of working at HBO, when he was sent to Nashville to cover a country music event. “The legendary rock star Jerry Lee Lewis threatened my life because he didn’t like an innocent question I had asked for a press release,” Schaffer wrote. “My HBO career appeared to be over after only 30 days. Little did I know that he was merely joking with me and little did I know I’d be at HBO 39 years (yes, longer than Glenn Whitehead).”
Schaffer’s highlight reel of HBO memories also included “a screening of Band of Brothers on the beaches of Normandy with the men of Easy Company, my 15 minutes as Michael Jackson’s spokesman in 1995, a visit to Nelson Mandela’s office while in Johannesburg for the Whitney Houston concert, being in Moscow right after Perestroika for a screening of Stalin (I shouldn’t have been there as my daughter was born the same time), the barrage of calls after The Sopranos went to black.”
As EVP of Corporate Communications, Schaffer was responsible for all consumer press outreach, talent relations, special events, awards campaigns, trade advertising, CSR and corporate affairs. He pioneered the first premiere of a television show in a theater with Sex and the City back in 1999, was one of the originators of HBO’s successful Emmy Awards campaign, saw through the press launch of HBO NOW with Apple and kept the HBO brand front and center with campaigns for Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Wire, Big Little Lies, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and many more.
“I’ve been doing PR for a long-time and have always admired the magic of HBO’s amazing publicity machine, first from afar and now close-up,” said Kevin Brockman, a longtime Disney-ABC PR executive who was named EVP, Global Communications, Warner Media Entertainment & Direct-To-Consumer in May. “I know how big a part Quentin played in leading those efforts, and in keeping the brand alive, and was sad to learn of his decision to leave. But I’m glad I got the chance to work with him, if only for a few months. On behalf of everyone at the company, I want to thank him for his many contributions. After 39 years, he deserves a break.”
Schaffer joined HBO in 1980 as a senior publicist, rising through the ranks until he was named SVP, corporate communications in July 1999. Before HBO he had worked at WABC-TV and Solters & Roskin, the entertainment PR firm.
“HBO has been an amazing place to work alongside the brightest and most creative people I’ve ever come across, particularly the communications team,” Schaffer said in a statement. “What made it special was that we always had an enviable slate of programming to work with. In looking back, I feel lucky to have had the greatest temporary job in the business. For 39 years. With Kevin now here, the team is in good hands and I can feel comfortable moving on.”
Here is Schaffer’s email to his colleagues:
To: HBO Staff
Fm: Quentin Schaffer
FADE IN. When I first began at HBO, I was sent to Nashville to cover a country music special. The legendary rock star Jerry Lee Lewis threatened my life because he didn’t like an innocent question I had asked for a press release. My HBO career appeared to be over after only 30 days. Little did I know that he was merely joking with me and little did I know I’d be at HBO 39 years (yes, longer than Glenn Whitehead). FLASH AHEAD as I look back on an amazing career and the honor of running HBO’s top-notch PR operation.
FOCUS ON A MONTAGE OF MEMORIES that included a screening of Band of Brothers on the beaches of Normandy with the men of Easy Company, my 15 minutes as Michael Jackson’s spokesman in 1993, a visit to Nelson Mandela’s office while in Johannesburg for the Whitney Houston concert, being in Moscow right after Perestroika for a screening of Stalin (I shouldn’t have been there as my daughter was born the same time), the barrage of calls after The Sopranos went to black, the first ever screening of a TV Show for Sex and the City, more than 100 TCA press tours with the likes of Billy Joel, Britney Spears, George Clooney, Monica Lewinsky, 8 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies, events at the White House with Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama as well as a screening in Kennebunkport with both Presidents Bush, a daring visit to the West Bank to see the Church of the Nativity, set visits to Rome and Belfast and the final season premiere at Radio City Music Hall for Game of Thrones with 42 cast members, 1500 HBO employees and 5000 guests. Oh, and perhaps most importantly, I met my wife here.
CUT TO Present Day. Throughout my HBO career I’ve always been able to answer Yes to the two questions essential to ask in any job: Am I having fun and am I still learning. So many of you have made that possible as you were the brightest, kindest, funniest and most special people I could ever have worked with, starting at the top with my boss of 28 years Richard Plepler and my dear colleague of 35 years Nancy Lesser. Thanks to you all for such a great experience. It’s been the greatest temporary job. For 39 years. And now, when summer ends, I’ve decided to move onto something new. My wife has convinced me I could have just as much fun and learn new things if I spent more time with her. CUT TO BLACK (courtesy of David Chase).
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